A furious third-period comeback wasn't enough for the Rangers last night.
After Brandon Dubinsky scored twice - the last coming with 46.6 seconds left in regulation - Kyle Okposo's long wrister deflected off Marc Staal's leg and the goalpost and past Henrik Lundqvist at 4:13 of overtime for a 3-2 Isles win that snapped a four-game Rangers winning streak before one of the liveliest crowds of the season at Madison Square Garden.
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Okposo, who had a terrific game, also set up the first two Islanders goals.
"I'm happy to get the point at least," Lundqvist said, "but if you looked at the whole game, we should have had two. If we had tied the game a little earlier, we would have had a better shot." Asked if he thought the team played well enough to win," he responded: "Yeah, I think so, don't you?"
Saturday morning, Rangers coach John Tortorella voiced his concerns about the consistency and readiness of his troops, who had won four straight games before the two-day holiday break and prepared to host the Islanders.
"Are they still thinking about Christmas?" Tortorella said. "Are they ready to go back to work?"
Perhaps, and maybe not.
For the first two periods, the Rangers (18-16-4) showed little of the desperation that punctuated their 5-2 win at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 17 that triggered the four-game streak. And they were in the box four times in the first, including an unsportsmanlike- conduct penalty on Sean Avery.
"It was something he said," Tortorella said. "It should have been an interference call and that's what Sean was upset about. Stevie [Walkom, the referee] missed two interference calls in the first six minutes of the game."
The penalty kill held the Islanders at bay, but after Vinny Prospal was tangled with a player in center ice, Okposo broke in and curled away from the net, then spun for a backhanded pass in front to Nielsen, who scored his sixth of the season at 7:45. It was only the second shot on Lundqvist, who had allowed just five goals in the past four starts.
Midway through the second period, the Rangers threw shots from all angles, but Dwayne Roloson (36 saves) smothered them all.
Then, with 57 seconds left on a penalty to Brendan Witt, Okposo fought off a check by Michael Del Zotto on the wall, poked the puck ahead, brushed off a bump by Ales Kotalik and passed to Comeau, who charged in on Lundqvist and slid the puck under him at 14:21.
"I was too aggressive on that," Lundqvist said. "I tried for a poke check and missed."
In a frantic third period, the Rangers tested Roloson with 15 shots. Dubinsky scored on a backhanded rebound five seconds after a power play expired at 6:07 and in the final minute on a deflection of Ryan Callahan's slapper from the top of the left circle while Lundqvist was pulled for an extra skater.
"In hindsight, we found a way to fight back and found a way to get a big point," Dubinsky said. "It's tough to sit here after a loss, but we showed a lot of character coming back in the third. Great teams win at home the majority of the time and we've got to find a way to get that confidence here."